In November Michael A. Stusser's "Sleeping with Siri" was published in Seattle Weekly. Part social experiment, part social commentary, and all pure brilliance, Stusser endeavor involved a one-week "Techno-Gorge" - texting, Facebooking, Tweeting, Foursquaring like there was no tomorrow - followed by a one-week respite from the constant technological interruptions that have become so much a part of our existence.
Though I'd recommend first reading Stusser's piece, soon you'll also have the chance to watch the experience that helped make it for yourself. Together with director Marty Riemer and director of photography Mark Goodnow, Stusser's technological experiment has been captured in a documentary that carries the same name as his article - a cinematic effort that was recently accepted into the American Documentary Film Festival, the Big Easy International Film and Music Festival, and the Palm Beach International Film Festival.
"The funny thing about my experiment," says Stusser in a press release hyping the new documentary, "is that I thought I was going way over the top with my constant digital usage; then I looked around and saw all these people on their cell phones in line at Starbucks, driving with their heads down, texting on romantic dates, and I thought - they're making me look like I'm Amish. The new reality is over the top!"
As part of Stusser's experiment and the article it birthed, the Seattle-based freelance writer recruited his physician to track the impacts his "Techno Gorge" had on his health - including monitoring his blood pressure and pulse, fatigue, energy level, vision, hearing, sex-drive, anxiety, depression, muscular-skeletal pain and sleep abnormalities.
It made for one of the more memorable pieces Seattle Weekly has published in recent memory, and seems likely to have a similar impact on film.
"Editing a written piece and putting together a film are peas in a pod: they're both hell," Stusser tells Seattle Weekly. "There are so many ways you can take a story, and it comes down to choices, which can drive you crazy. Should we highlight this fact? Is there a better way to show this? Do we need more research? Where's hair and make-up, dammit!?
"But Marty is an amazing editor - he's known more for his decades behind the mic at local radio stations - and was really the key to putting the whole thing together, including graphics and music and the final, polished documentary."
According to Stusser, in addition to the three film festivals Sleeping with Siri the movie has already been accepted to, the team has also applied to SIFF "and a half-dozen others."
As for other plans for the film and the future, Stusser says they're playing it by ear - and have a few new tricks up their sleeve.
"Since this is new to us, we really have no idea what the game plan is - winning an Oscar for short documentary would be a good start," says Stusser. "But what this really did was get a great group of people together who are excited to continue working as a team - Marty, Mark Goodnow, and myself. Our next project is a TV show about the legalization of ganja here in Washington State - sort of like the Mike Douglas show, or Fox and Friends, but we'll be high as a kite. Watch for it!"
Check out the trailer for Sleeping with Siri below: